Father Peter Gumpel, promoter of the case for sainthood for Pius XII: "Pope Benedict XVI would like to go to Israel as soon as possible" but cannot do so until a caption to a picture of Pius XII, accusing him of remaining silent, in the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, had been removed.
ROME (AFP)---Pope Benedict XVI has held off taking the first steps towards the canonisation of one of his predecessors in order to maintain good relations with Jews, a backer of sainthood for Pius XII said Saturday.
Jewish groups accuse Pius, pontiff from 1939 to 1958, of having failed to protest the Holocaust and having been passive towards persecution of Jews.
Father Peter Gumpel, the promoter of the case for sainthood for Pius, told the Italian news agency ANSA that the procedure for beatification, the first step towards canonisation, has been completed.
But Benedict had not signed the decree "because he wants good relations with the Jews."
"The pope has not yet signed the decree, considering a time of reflection opportune," the Vatican spokesman said.
For Pius to be canonised, Benedict first has to sign a decree attesting to the exercise of the candidate's "heroic virtues" and then a miracle has to be attributed to him.
Earlier this month Benedict defended the memory of Pius, baptised Eugenio Pacelli, at a mess to mark the 50th anniversary of his death and said he wanted him to be beatified soon.
He regretted that the record of Pius had been overshadowed by a historical debate that had not "always been calm".
Trip to Israel
Gumpel said that Benedict "would like to go to Israel as soon as possible" but cannot do so until a caption to a picture of Pius XII, accusing him of remaining silent, in the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, had
The caption was "an obvious falsification of history," Gumpel said.
As long as the caption remained, a trip to Israel by the pontiff would be "a scandal for Catholics," he said.
|A Vatican spokesman said in a statement that the caption "cannot be considered the determining factor in the decision as to an eventual voyage... to Israel, one the pope wishes to effect but which has yet to be set in stone."
"The Catholic church does what it can to have good relations with Israel but friendly relations can only be built on reciprocity," he said.
"We see that the pope with a great sense of hospitality invited a rabbi to our (recent) synod and he abused our kindness by attacking on three occasions Pius XII," said Gumpel.
"Of course the rabbi can say what he wants but if he is our guest and he talks like that he doesn't help improve our relations.
"We oppose the beatification of Pius XII. We cannot forget his silence on the Holocaust," Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the grand rabbi of Haifa, told an Italian newspaper earlier this month.
"He should not be seen as a model and he should not be beatified because he did not raise his voice against the Holocaust. He didn't speak because he was afraid or for other personal reasons," the rabbi, who became the first Jew to address a synod of Catholic bishops, said.
But Gumpel claimed that Jews were divided on the beatification issue.
"Some continue to attack the Catholic church saying that Christ was the son of a soldier and a prostitute while others say nobody saved as many Jews as Pius XII."
Some Catholics would prefer see John XXIII, successor to Pius, made a saint before his predecessor.